What I Always Do in Pittsburgh

As you probably saw if you follow me on Instagram, our family just came back from our annual Pittsburgh Pilgrimage.

We visit family and friends, we explore, we stuff ourselves silly with food. For me, it’s always a chance to reset mentally and spiritually, too. There’s something about being on your home turf that is so deeply comforting.

Pittsburgh has always been a city full of vitality and rooted in culture, its natives (hello!) famously loyal to its beauty and all its eccentricities. But it seems lately that the rest of the world is catching on to how great of a city it is too.

So, our trip… It was awesome, one we will never forget. I love that our kids can see how and where I grew up, and hang out with their cousins and family up north.

As far as the travel itself? The flights up and back when shockingly well–save for two diaper blowouts, one maaaajor baby vomit and a crick in my back unique to that strange position you have to hold while sitting upright in a tight space with an infant plastered to your chest–so we arrived happy, and ready for all the adventures we had planned.

As I wrote before, any and every trip back home for us involves lots and lots of delicious food–both homemade and from restaurants (see picture below of my mom’s famous homemade pizza)–so you’ll see that some things I suggest trying around Pittsburgh involve food, because, well, that’s kinda what I love in life.

Mom’s homemade pizza is like WHOA

Without further adieu, here are the things this Pittsburgh native always does, every visit! Enjoy!

The Strip District

There is no easy way to describe the Strip District for someone who hasn’t been there, but here’s my best go: Picture one long city street packed with people and open-air markets that sell fresh produce, meats, cheeses, Italian delicacies (Pittsburgh has a HUGE Italian-American population), flowers, chocolates, unique handmade clothing and more; and then add to all of that a bunch of cafes, restaurants and coffee shops, and you’ll have the Strip District.

So. Question: Do you like incredible food? Answer: The Strip District.

I could dedicate whole blog post to the Strip alone, but here are just a few highlights.

For Italian biscotti (specifically, vanilla drizzled with chocolate icing, thank you), go to Enrico Biscotti, and also happens to be the place we took these adorable snaps of me and my baby girl. Their open-air café adjacent to their shop is the perfect place for a quick lunch.

Strip District Meats sells every type of meat you can imagine. Are you ready for this? Ahem. “Kangaroo, Elk, Buffalo, Venison, Alligator, Ostrich, Antelope, Rattle Snake and even ground Camel.”

I prefer not to know exactly how this meat gets as delicious as it is, but trust me when I say, they’re the freshest you can get.

Pennsylvania Macaroni Company, or PennMac. Italian EMPORIUM. Cheeses, breads, olives, pastas, olive oils, prepared foods, etc etc etc ad infinitum forevermore yada yada seriously every amazing Italian food you can think of under one roof. (That was not a technical explanation, but you get the picture.) So. Good.

Wholey’s. Allll the fresh seafood, all in one place. A Pittsburgh tradition.

P&G’s Pamela’s Diner. Just go there for breakfast. Trust me.

Pamela’s. So good you’ll be blown away.

La Prima Espresso coffee shop. Hand-crafted coffees and all sorts of tasty treats to dip in them.

Okay, I have to stop here, but trust me when I say this is just a short list of the awesomeness you’ll find at “The Strip.” Just go. Trust me.

The Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium

Lions and tigers and (polar) bears, oh my! The Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium is one of only six major zoo/aquarium combinations in the country.

Parents, take note: Wear your sneakers and be prepared to get in a decent workout if you’re pushing a stroller. The zoo and aquarium are situated in a gorgeous hillside which makes for great views and a scenic walk; but when combined with kid wrangling, it sorta becomes an impromptu Crossfit workout. (We learned this the hard way.) So grab a coffee first.

Worth seeing? The new baby elephant, and the polar bear exhibit, which is super cool. You can watch the bears literally swim over and past you in the special glass-wall exhibit.

Photo of a new baby elephant courtesy Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. Also, THE CUTENESS.

Kennywood Park (Spring/Summer/Fall only)

This amusement park is a great mix of classic and modern rides. The Jack Rabbit, a wooden coaster, is my favorite. Built in 1920 (!!!), this one still has a kick and is my hands-down favorite for not only its nostalgia factor, but also the fact that it can still hold its own alongside some of the newer, fierce coasters like Phantom’s Revenge. Bottom line–thrill seekers won’t be disappointed at Kennywood.

They also have an entire area dedicated to the Littles. Kiddieland has small versions of the swings, the Whip and the coasters. My kids literally spent four hours there riding nonstop.

Strolling through the park with the Bigs


Photo from lvpgh.com

This city neighborhood bordering the Strip (and minutes from downtown) is what people mean when they use the term “up and coming.” The main drag, Butler Street, is lined for miles with amazing one-off restaurants, stores, salons, beauty boutiques (yay!) and coffee shops. Kinda like New York City’s Williamsburg, but without all the pretentious, super rich hipsters.

Being a former resident way back when, before it got too cool, (pats self on back for staying ahead of trends), I always recommend my favorites—Coca Cafe for brunch and Piccolo Forno for dinner.

North Shore/Riverwalk

Photo via pga-sea.com

The walkway and park lining the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers runs past PNC Park and the Science Center (another awesome place my kids always love visiting every trip), is right near Heinz Field and the Rivers Casino, and is the perfect place for a walk, run, or general taking-in-of-the-downtown-skyline-scenery. I also recommend kayaking the rivers with Kayak Pittsburgh, which launches from right under one of the bridges lining the Riverwalk.

The Warhol Museum is a hop, skip and jump from the Riverwalk; or if it’s hot outside, you can dip your toes in the Water Steps as you take in the gorgeous riverfront. The whole area is really something to take in. It’s just steps away from great dining and bars, too.

Any other Pittsburgh-philes out there who have recommendations or favorite places to visit? I’d love to hear more in Comments below!

Sonni Abatta is an Orlando lifestyle and mom blogger who is from Pittsburgh, as you surely were able to garner from reading this post. Want to collaborate? Have an idea for a story? I’m all ears! Reach out to Sonni@SonniAbatta.com.

Photos by Richard Kelly Photography




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83 thoughts on “What I Always Do in Pittsburgh

  1. I don’t disagree with you about Pamela’s at all, but I prefer Kelly O’s just a couple blocks away. Amazing breakfast. Just the right amount of chaos.

    • Yes! Good call. I love DeLuca’s, too. Wasn’t enough time to put in all my food recs for the Strip but there are many! 😀

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